May 19, 2010

Mussoorie's Halls of Dust

From Ruskin Bond's Mussoorie Diary in Outlook India magazine dated 17 May 2010:

"I first saw Mussoorie in 1940, when I was six years old,” I told Gautam, who is twelve. “I didn’t know you were so ancient,” said Gautam. “A bit of history,” said his sister Shristi, all of fourteen. “And what were you doing here when you were six?” asked brother Siddarth, now sixteen.


So I told him how the old Mussoorie once had six cinemas, right up to 1980, and now of course, there wasn’t a single cinema left in town. One by one they closed down—put out of business by television, DVDs and the entertainment tax. The halls are still there, locked up because the law prevents them from being used for anything else. Rows of empty seats gather dust while the silver screen grows green with mildew. You may not see the ghosts of Robert Taylor and Errol Flynn, but you might well meet the ghost of Arthur Fisher, who, for most of his adult life, was the proud projectionist at the Picture Palace—which is at the other end of Library—in Mussoorie.

The Electric Picture Palace, to give it its original name, opened in 1912, the year electricity came to the hill station. One of the country’s earliest cinemas, it survived for well on ninety years. Longer than Fisher, a poor Anglo-Indian who rests in a pauper’s grave in the Camel’s Back cemetery.


Today the vast hall is almost empty, just a handful of solitary roller-skaters looking as though they would rather be elsewhere. What happened to roller-skating? There was a time when every youngster wanted a pair of roller-skates. “Would you like a pair of skates?” I asked Gautam. “No way,” he said. “But you can get me a laptop.” That says it all, I suppose.

The simpler pleasures have given way to play-stations, sophisticated video games, personal computers and the internet. Even filmstars must learn to twitter. Politicians would be wise not to."


Reading the above, I could visualise well the dilapidated state of the Picture Palace that Ruskin Bond was referring to for I was in Mussoorie in August last year.

I went through my almost 9 months old photographs and came across a few of the Picture Palace that are referred to above.

Of course, Mussoorie is not just about the dilapidated Picture Palace. Mussoorie, to begin with, is a hill station with beautiful views of the Himalayan mountains.

Like so many others, I too am a fan of Ruskin Bond (born 19 May 1934 in Kasauli, Himachal Pradesh, India). With subtle humor and quiet wisdom, his literary style brings out the kid in me. What I admire most about him is his unlimited enthusiasm, respect for people around him, and his deep love for nature, especially the Himalayan flora and fauna. I have not read all his books but in the few that I did, it is wonderful to read about his love for living in harmony with nature.

Though he lives in Landour since the 1960s, I was informed by the person in the photograph below that almost every Saturday, Ruskin Bond drops by at the Cambridge Book Depot. I spent just a few days in Mussoorie but did not have an opportunity to meet him.

Ruskin Bond is 76 years old today. Happy Birthday young man!


Zhu said...

It's not dilapidated, it's urban decay - which I personally find beautiful! I like places that have a soul.

Anu said...

the one reason i have wanted to go to Mussorie was to meet him! wonder if it will ever happen!

Devi said...

An absolute delight to read ur post...I have been a huge fan of Ruskin Bond..and want to meet him so much...

indicaspecies said...

I understand. Dark secrets whispering around when urban decay sets in kinda romance...hehe!
I like old structures too, except when people continue to live in them for lack of a choice in which case it can be dangerous for their lives.
So, let's call the Picture Palace in a state of urban decay or dilapidated. Either way, it is in a state of deterioration. Btw, the ''katmal'' that Ruskin Bond refers to are the bed bugs!

I have heard that he is not too happy when a crowd gathers around him, but if possible, if it doesn't disturb him and giving due respect to his right to privacy, I'd like to meet him too. Whether or not you get an opportunity to meet him, Mussoorie is well worth a visit.

Thank you for dropping by and your kind words. I intend to pass by Mussorie again while on my way to other parts of Uttarakhand, not only to make an attempt to meet Ruskin Bond again, but also to take delight in the beauty of the place.

Lakshmi said...

Im a fan too and didnt know it was his bday..and Im reading his compilation of indian railway stories now..I met some friends who know him very well and one evening they were sharing anecdotes ..would love to meet him too and go to mussorie as well..last year, managed to see kasauli

indicaspecies said...

I'm sure your friends have interesting stories to narrate about him. Bond's Indian Railway stories too would be equally interesting for you as they include stories of both pre- and post-Independence times.

Rajesh said...

Beautiful post. I had always known this place for its mesmerizing beauty. I never knew about the Ruskin Bond association with this place.

indicaspecies said...

Thank you. I am glad my little post helped you to find the association of the place with the Padma Shree Awardee.

As per this bit of news, right now he must celebrating his birthday with his fans:

Nisha said...

One of the reasons for us to go there is him.
And Celine, I must appreciate your gesture in this lovely manner for wishing him a birthday.

I am sure it'll reach him somehow. :-)

Happy b'day !! We love you.

indicaspecies said...


"He has always believed that children do not like preaching and two-thirds of his writings are for general reading, of which some of those have been selected as suitable for textbooks. He mostly writes for pleasure and feels bad when a child has to write questions and answers based on his stories." I have quoted this from:

As we know, he has many fans. I am just one of them.

Mridula said...

Have been there only once on route to trekking to Har Ki Doon, but the second picture makes me wonder if I should go again!

indicaspecies said...

The 2nd picture is the very street on which the Picture Palace, the topic of the post, is located.
Leaving aside the narrow old roads and the buildings there, I think Mussorie during off season is very good. Scenery is beautiful. Think of the Landour cantonment or the Camel's Back Road and you would want to go again. I do.

Arun said...

Bond is one of the authors whom I cherish to read. No one can describe the charm of mountains like he does.

shooting star said...

i love ruskin bond too!!....
he is a master story teller!!
musoorie is a place i have gone often, liked it but did not love it...coz its become way too touristy!!

Unseen Rajasthan said...

I got to know about Ruskin through your Blog only !!Beautiful post !!!

San said...

I hope you will visit again, Celine, and meet Ruskin. Such a lovely birthday tribute you've paid him.

I haven't visited your blog in far too long. It's a beautiful place.

rainboy said...

He's such a great writer :D
I love his writings grew up reading him.

Nice post by you...

Though more pictures would have made it fantastic. :)

Trotter said...

Hi Celine! Interesting post. Had never heard of this Bond, I believe... Always learning...

Blogtrotter Two has a sunset cruise for you! Enjoy the cocktails and the views and have a great weekend!!

indicaspecies said...

I completely agree with you. The charm is in his simplicity.

Shooting star,
Good to find another fan of Bond. As to Mussoorie being touristy, that’s why I always choose to visit such places during the off-season!

Unseen Rajasthan,
I’m glad to have introduced Bond to you. Do grab a book, and am sure you will like to read what he has to say.

It’s a real pleasure to see you here, and thank you very much.

Another fan! I have many more pictures of Mussoorie, will post them in due course. This post is to highlight the Picture Palace.

Thank you for dropping by Gil. Always learning...and am on my way to see you cruise!

prasoon said...

it was nostalgic to visit Mussoorie this June of 2010. I had first been there when I was 10 yrs. It has changed so much.

Being at Cambridge Book Depot I went beserk buying books of RUSKIN BOND. I nearly missed the writer to meet him as I was leaving the town in the morning and he was to come there in the evening.

It was so refreshing to have relived my childhood memories. At that time we used stay in Dehradun on the Rajpur Rd near Doon Garage. This time I could;nt find the garage either and Dilaram Bazaar is all concretised.

Presently I stay in Mumbai Powai publishing the Local Newspaper.

I intend to visit this Queen of hill stationsat least once in two years, let's see!


indicaspecies said...


Thank you very much for dropping by and leaving behind a few words. Appreciated.

So, please write how was it to meet Ruskin Bond? I'd have also liked to know which newspaper did you refer to. Thanks again.